Pa. state Rep. Cherelle Parker, Dem. from Phila., found guilty on DUI charges

By Jon Campisi | Jan 17, 2013

The state representative from Northwest Philadelphia who made headlines after a

The state representative from Northwest Philadelphia who made headlines after a

municipal judge tossed DUI charges that had been lodged against the legislator, only to be overruled by another judge when it was discovered the original jurist and the lawmaker were Facebook friends, has been found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Cherelle Parker, a Democrat who represents the 200th Legislative District, which includes neighborhoods in Northwest Philly, was found guilty Wednesday during a bench trial at Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center, according to the court docket sheet in the case and local news reports.

Parker, who leads Philadelphia’s House delegation in the state capitol, was found guilty on DUI charges by visiting judge S. Gerald Corso, a former Montgomery County Common Pleas Court judge who was specially assigned to preside over the case.

The state representative was given a minimum of 72 hours in jail and a maximum of six months, her docket sheet shows.

Parker was also required to pay a $1,000 fine and have her driver’s license suspended for a year.

Corso took over the case after controversy erupted following Parker’s initial trial at Philadelphia’s Municipal Court back in November 2011, at which time Judge Charles Hayden dismissed the DUI charges against Parker, determining that the police officers who initially pulled Parker over lacked credibility.

The state Attorney General’s Office soon entered the picture, deciding to prosecute Parker because the state representative is also friendly with Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams.

Hayden and Parker were said to be friends on the social networking website Facebook while Parker and Williams are apparently real life acquaintances.

Following Hayden’s initial dismissing of the charges against Parker, a senior deputy attorney general succeeded in getting a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge to reinstate the charges due to the fact that Hayden should have recused himself from the case from the get-go.

Parker had been pulled over by two 14th District Philadelphia police officers in late April 2011 supposedly for driving the wrong way down a one-way street.

News reports have stated that the officers claimed that Parker’s eyes were glassy and that her breath smelled of booze.

They also testified that a breath test given at the scene showed Parker had a blood-alcohol level of 0.16 percent, which is twice the legal limit for drunken driving in Pennsylvania.

Hayden, the Philadelphia Municipal Court judge who originally presided over the case, also tossed the results of the Breathalyzer.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Thursday that Parker’s attorney, Joseph Kelly, has vowed to appeal, in part because he takes issue with the results of the breath test being partly used to convict Parker.

Kelly, the newspaper stated, cited a recent opinion by a Dauphin County Common Pleas Court judge that questioned the accuracy of Breathalyzer results above 0.15 percent in DUI cases.

That judicial opinion leaves many pending DUI cases across the commonwealth in limbo, legal news outlets have reported.

As for Parker, the state representative is expected to serve a period of probation following her jail sentence and she is required to undergo safe driving classes, her criminal docket sheet shows.

It was unclear when Parker would be expected to report to the county jail.

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